April 25, 2017

Furloughs put unions, Martinez administration at odds

Gov. Susana Martinez

The state and labor unions representing workers in agencies possibly facing furloughs are clashing over the process of the potential forced days off.

State Personnel Director Justin Najaka sent a letter Monday to Connie Derr, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 18 asking her to meet with him “to discuss the proposed statewide furlough plan.”

AFSCME represents employees at the Motor Vehicle Division, which Gov. Susana Gov. Susana Martinez has said could face the unpaid days off along with museums and state parks.

Najaka cites state administrative code stating that the plan “identifying organizational units to be affected by the furlough may be presented to the State Personnel Board for approval or may otherwise be implemented.”

Najaka then listed this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as dates he could meet with Derr.

He ended the letter by stating that if he didn’t hear from Derr soon, “the State will proceed with the implementation of the proposed statewide furlough plan.”

But in a letter sent to Najaka today in response, Derr said the meeting would be an empty gesture without adequate information showing a need for furloughs.

“Without such data and narrative, we have reason to believe this will be merely a pro forma and substance free meeting,” Derr wrote, citing provisions in the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state.

Derr continued: “We do not think it is remotely reasonable to call for such a significant meeting with one day’s notice for response, and schedule such a significant meeting without providing any information.”

She ended by suggesting Monday, May 8 for the meeting “if you are able to turn around our request for information quickly.”

The dispute reflects the disagreement between Martinez and state legislative leaders over whether the state has enough money to last through June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Martinez’s administration argues that the state needs more money, and until the the Legislature fixes the funding in a to-be-determined special session, the state must plan for furloughs.

But Democratic lawmakers point to a solvency package passed earlier this year to fund state government through June and a recent Legislative Finance Committee revenue estimate showing better revenue projections than previous reports.

Though Najaka in his letter referred to “the statewide furlough plan,” it’s unclear how many jobs would be furloughed and when the process would begin.

Joseph Cueto, a spokesman with the governor’s office, said that Martinez “doesn’t want to furlough employees, but she has to leave everything on the table to solve our cash crisis.” Cueto added that the administration is meeting with the Communications Workers of America Local 7076, which represents employees at the Department of Cultural Affairs, on Thursday to discuss the furlough plan.

“There’s a process we need to go through,” Cueto wrote NM Political Report in an email.

CWA Executive Vice President Dan Secrist confirmed the meeting. But he added that CWA also doesn’t believe furloughs are necessary based on data from the LFC and opinions from the State Treasurer’s Office. Secrist added that if the administration seeks furloughs, CWA would likely seek an injunction to halt forced days off.

“We personally think she’s bluffing,” he said.

AFSCME spokesman Miles Conway, for his part, called SPO’s one-day notice to schedule a meeting with the union to talk about furloughs “crazy.”

“This is not negotiating,” he said.

Read both letters below:

2017 4 24 Afscme Notice by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd

Justin Najeka by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd